HONG KONG (CNN) — Hong Kong police have begun dismantling the main Hong Kong protest site Monday morning after a violent nighttime standoff when protesters surrounded government headquarters in the city’s Admiralty district.
Police in Hong Kong used batons, pepper spray and water cannon to push back demonstrators who have been occupying streets in Hong Kong’s financial district Monday morning (Sunday evening Eastern time).
Protesters, following student leaders’ calls to escalate their civil disobedience movement, surrounded the government complex and charged onto Lung Wo Road, a major east-west route next to the headquarters, before police retaliated.
Police and protesters were seen injured in the clashes, with protesters seen receiving first aid treatment and police carried away in ambulances.
Police moved in on the main Hong Kong pro-democracy protest site Monday, cutting down banners on a pedestrian overpass above thousands of tents inside the “democracy village” in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district.
Calls for escalation
Earlier, protesters surrounded government headquarters in Admiralty and briefly blocked a key road near the Chief Executive’s office on Sunday, amid calls by student protest leaders for an escalated campaign of civil disobedience.
Police used batons, pepper spray, and water cannon to push the protesters back, then demolished steel barricades the protesters had built on Lung Wo Road, a major east-west route.
Protesters retreated, chanting slogans at police who raised a red-flag warning that they might use force to disperse the crowds.
Local media outlets showed brawls between protesters and police throughout the night. Multiple protesters were seen receiving first aid care from other protesters.
Before dawn Monday, at least 40 arrests had been made, according to the Hong Kong Police.
The Central Government Office, meanwhile, announced that it would be closed Monday morning because of the protesters blocking access roads and asked employees to stay home.
“We do not have any plan”
The current police operation is the boldest move authorities have made on the main protest site in nearly two months.
Protesters seemed at a loss for how to respond, with arguments breaking out between student leaders and protesters even as police moved in.
Winnie Ng, a demonstrator, told CNN “We do not have any plan.”
This morning, a tweet from student leader group Hong Kong Federation of Students read “We need your support in Admiralty right now.”
The tense standoff came at the end of a dramatic week in which Hong Kong authorities moved to dismantle protest camps in the city’s working-class Mong Kok district, arresting dozens and drawing accusations of brutality in the process.
Protesters want their occupations to pressure the Chinese government into giving Hong Kong open elections for its next leader in 2017. So far, officials have shown no willingness to give into protesters’ demands.
The protests have drawn widespread international attention, although the Chinese government has rebutted any efforts by outside countries to “interfere.”
On Sunday Sir Richard Ottoway, who chairs the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said he and other lawmakers had been barred by China from making a planned trip to Hong Kong to assess the political situation.
“The Chinese government are acting in an overtly confrontational manner in refusing us access to do our job,” he said.